Weekly Writing 5: Situational Factors for Interviewing Class

Following the categories given by Fink (2013), I will describe several key features of the interviewing class I’ll be teaching in Spring 2015, including its specific context; what the department and society expects in terms of interview preparation; the nature of the subject matter and how it is situated within the field of Communication; the relevant characteristics of the learners and instructor; and the “special pedagogical challenge” driving the course (pp. 76-77).

The class will be held at the main campus of UAF, a 4-year institution in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is estimated that 15 students will enroll in the class. That is approximately the number of students needed for the class to “make’ its minimum. The class is a 200-level offered from the Department of Communication that will be open to all levels of undergraduate students. Class meets two nights a week for 1.5 hours per session, and the course will be delivered primarily via live classroom instruction with some video sessions possible if the instructor is traveling or otherwise unavailable in person.

The course will be focused on employment interviews, teaching skills relevant for the role of interviewee AND interviewer. According to Forbes (2012) online, the average person stays at a job only 4.4 years, and millenials are expected to stay for an average of less than 3 years. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that employment interviews will be a recurring situation most people will face throughout their adult lives. Based on my experience, interviewees expect the interviewer to be prepared, attentive and fair. Those of us who have been interviewers expect interviewees to be confident, engaged and knowledgeable.

Because employment interviews can affect one’s income and career progression, it is also reasonable to assume that society places a high value on “good” interviewing skills. The UAF Dept. of Communication, realizing the need for instructional support of this skill-building, successfully argued to fund a class on interviewing. UAF’s curricular goals are reflected in the proposal document submitted for the course, in which the head of the Dept. of Communication wrote, “I do think that it may have a positive affect on programs such as Nursing, Marketing, Justice, or Business to mention a few. Basically any program that has an ‘interviewing’ component or necessity will benefit from the course.”

Though many popular press articles try to convince job-seekers that there are “right” answers to interview questions, and that employees just have to ask the “right” questions to build a good workforce, I would argue that the subject matter is actually divergent. What questions are best and what answers go over well are largely dependent on the localized communication situation. Interviewing is “primarily cognitive” but there are some physical aspects related to nonverbal behavior that are also important. Eye contact, smiling, handshakes, and other physical behaviors are addressed as part of the skill-building. Interviewing as a field of study has seen various fads and new trend come and go; there are “competing paradigms” where questions can be behavioral, historical, hypothetical, etc. Sometimes it’s just a conversation; other times you are asked to perform a task.

The course is an elective and will be offered in the evening, so there is a chance that both full-time traditional students and working adults will be attending. The prerequisite is the basic English course, so students should have college-level writing abilities. However, their experience with interviews may vary widely, as can their reasons for enrolling. Some may be using it to bolster their degrees in professional communication or public relations; others may be taking it as professional development. I will have to survey the class at the beginning of the semester to learn more about their history and motivations. Prior experience is not necessarily a plus, as some students may have to un-learn some bad habits or myths.

As the instructor, I am bringing some experience to the table, having taught the course (same book and format) for two semesters at Purdue University; this will be my first time teaching it at UAF. I feel that this is in my “zone of competence” because over the past two years I have presented on this subject for Staff Appreciation Day and for 4-H leaders and youth in order to keep up my skills. Overall, I’d say my “challenge” is that students often feel overwhelmed by or apprehensive of interviews because the power is imbalanced and the stakes can be high. By having students practice the process step-by-step and critically reflect on what’s happening, I can help students build skills that will help them advocate for themselves and feel like they have more agency in the process.

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Meister, J. (2012). Job hopping is the new ‘normal’ for millenials: Three ways to prevent a human resource nightmare. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2012/08/14/job-hopping-is-the-new-normal-for-millennials-three-ways-to-prevent-a-human-resource-nightmare/

3 thoughts on “Weekly Writing 5: Situational Factors for Interviewing Class

  1. Jenny

    Alda,
    What an interesting class. I wish I could sit in on one of your lessons. As I was reading your post, I had to wonder how interviewing has changed in the past decade. I have sat on many interviewing committees, but have not been on the other side of the table in a long time. I would be curious to know how you teach a “good handshake” in an online class. You also mentioned that students will practice interviewing skills, how will they do this online? Will you have them send in video’s of themselves in a mock interview? You have several interesting challenges in teaching a course of this nature. I look forward to seeing the solutions you come up with.

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  2. Alda Post author

    Thanks for your comments. This is not meant to be an online-only course. We will have face-to-face sessions in a traditional classroom. The online aspects are the following: I plan to make regular use of Blackboard. I also plan to have at least two virtual sessions where students practice mediated interviews since it is likely they will encounter a phone or Skype-based interview situation at some point. I also plan to record a video module or hold an online session through Google Hangouts for when I will be out of town. Lastly, students will be learning some web literacy related to how to manage their digital footprints and how to research potential employers online. So, I think the scholarship of online pedagogy is still applicable to this future class.

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  3. Owen

    This sounds like an interesting and practically valuable course. I too am curious as to how you’ll make use of Blackboard to best augment the F2F activities.

    Also, it is interesting to me how many high-tech interviews have become almost legendary in their process. Microsoft’s famous questions, of course, and now Google and Facebook and so on. I spoke with the head of a game development studio last spring and he said he went to various job fairs with various written challenges. If someone turned in the sheet with all of the solutions, they earned an interview. These problems were hard – but it wasn’t whether or not the solutions were correct. It is that the applicant persisted enough to try them all.

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